Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Compile Heart
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 05/27/2009
A game called X Edge arrived on my doorstep in late September of 2008. It was yet another mashup RPG, but what a cast. Disgaea, Darkstalkers, Spectral Souls, Atelier Marie, Mana Khemia and Ar Tonelico. What a fun cast. Although many people thought the game would never head to the States, I knew better. Of course that was mainly due to NIS America strongly hinting at it back in August of 2008. I, however, was unwilling to wait, and over the past eight months I’ve managed to achieve two different endings. Now I’m sitting here with the US localization, Cross Edge and it’s now finally time to review this thing.
Long time readers will remember I put X Edge in my top ten games of 2008, so obviously, I really liked the game. As such, I’ll be more reviewing the changes and translation than anything else, but I’ll still touch on the basics. I’m happy to report at the half way point to the True Ending for Cross Edge in the US version, the game is still as great as it was when I played it in Japanese, but I can’t deny that part of the appeal for me is in my love of Disagea and Darkstalkers. I’m prettyt much sold on any game featuring Prinnies and Demitri.
So you’ve heard me talk about the game for months now. Let’s see just why this is a must buy for RPG fans across the board, even if you haven’t played some of the franchises features in this game.
Your main three characters are original creations named York, Miko, and May. York and Miko are long time friends, but one day the girl named May appears before them requesting help with a special quest releases souls that are still trapped in this plane of reality.
Like most mash-up RPG’s, the story here also involves the merging of various worlds due to nefarious reasons. Think “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” but with no serious ramification for your characters. Due to the merging of worlds, York, Miko and May will encounter familiar faces from other video games who will be either friends or enemies. None of what you encounter is this game is within continuity for the various franchises, so the more anal and uptight amongst you just need to take a deep breath and say to yourself, “It’s just a game. I should really just relax.” Enjoy the game for what it is, which is basically a fun excuse for fan favourite characters to meet, do battle, and team up. That being said, all characters are quite true to how they have been portrayed in their own games. They act, talk, and behave just like you’d expect, which is probably a bad thing if you’re a Prinny with Demon Lord Etna hanging about.
There are a lot of story elements specific to various characters so each franchise gets their time in the sun. For example, there are several alchemy events in the game with Marie, some specific Darkstalker events and so on. Depending on what events and encounters you trigger, you’ll be lead to one of several endings, all of which are a lot of fun to watch.
There are only two real down sides to the fun here. The first is that if you want the true ending, you’ll have to achieve it on your first play through, which is a bit hard to do without a walkthrough. While it IS possible to achieve the ending on a Saved Game+, it becomes dramatically harder than words can express. This is because events require souls to be collected. However, souls carry over from one game to the next, so if you released a particular soul in your first playthrough, you won’t be able to count that soul in your SG+. So that means if you need say, 100 souls to trigger something, you’ll need to find 100 new souls that you didn’t find in your first playthrough. Sometimes, this can actually be an impossibility, so trust me when I say, get the True Ending on your first playthrough. Otherwise you’re going to want to start a new game rather than used the Saved Game+ bit.
The second issue isn’t really one to me, but it will most likely be a turn off to some. This is that part of the game and its strategy is collecting costumes for your female characters and dressing them up in them. Yes I know, they made fan service actually count for something in the game, but some people might be disappointed that the male characters can’t be SEEN in their different outfits and that the focus is primarily on the female characters. So yes, for those of you wanting to view Jeddah in a schoolboy uniform, you’re out of luck.
Overall, the story of X Edge is probably the third best in the history of mash-ups. I’d but Capcom Vs. SNK: MOTM for the Neo*Geo Pocket Colour first, and Namco X Capcom as second, but this is a very close second and at least Cross Edge is in English. If you’re a fan of at least two of these series, you’ll have a lot of fun with this game from beginning to end. Cross Edge is fan service done right, and in such away you’ll be smiling all the way through the game, even if some of the main characters are unfamiliar to you.
Story Rating: Enjoyable
Although some might kvetch and moan that Cross Edge is a 2-D game in an era of 3-D gaming, I have to say that sometimes, 2-D works far better than 3-D, and I actually think 3-D graphics would ruin the mood and fun of this wacky little title.
Character sprites are really well done, and for characters from a lot of the franchises in this game, they have never looked better. I mean, when is the last time a Darkstalkers character received a new sprite from Capcom? Remember the graphics for Disgaea 3 and how they still looked like something out of a PSX title? Well, Etna and her Prinny pal look amazing here compared to D3’s sprites.
Monsters and backgrounds also look great. The bad guys are well designed, quite creative and a lot of fun to look at, much less kill for XP and money. Backgrounds are beautiful with a lot of colour and detail. Break Arts, Extra Skills, and Extra Combos all look quite nicely as well. It’s great to see a game on the PS3 actually having a lot of colour and vibrancy instead of mottled shades of grey speckeled with the occasional dirt brown or dark red.
I really enjoy the visuals in here. Sure, they’re not as impressive as other games on the console and they don’t push the PS3 to their limit, but it’s still a pretty game to look at and fans of 2-D RPG’s will be quite happy with this offering.
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
I absolutely love that the game gives you the option between US and Japanese voice acting. My preference for Japanese and American voice acting depends on the game and quality of the actors. I loved the Japanese voice acting cast when I first played this, especially the Darkstalkers crew. Old familiar actors returned to play their old characters and they didn’t miss a beat. Great job all around.
The English acting? Well, not so much. Etna and Prinny sound great and I have to admit, I’m at the point where I prefer them to the Japanese actors. Especially Prinny as I need to hear that “dood,” dood. A lot of the other actors though? They’re pretty bad. Take Morrigan for example. Why does a sexy succubus have a man voice? We’re about half an octave away from Dr. Girlfriend with her. The rest of the cast doesn’t fare much better. As such, I really wish I had the option to pick different languages for each character. That way I could have the best of both world. Still, if you don’t speak or understand Japanese, you may want to go with the English dialogue anyway, as the acting may be underwhelming but the script is great.
Musically, the game is excellent. I love the soundtrack and had Rosenqueen done a soundtrack pre-order instead of post cards I’ve have picked up a third copy of the game just for that. The music is frantic, catchy and often times feels like missing tracks from each of the respective games that makes up Cross Edge. A wonderful job all around here.
Sound Rating: Very Good
4. Control and Gameplay
Cross Edge has one of the most unique and innovative battle systems I’ve played in some time. Even if this game wasn’t an all-star mash-up I’d be giving this game top marks just for how intricate the combat system works. It’s an interesting mix of tactical and turn based gaming that reminds me a lot of the first Valkyrie Profile
First off, your characters are divided into three types: Vanguard, which are front line attackers, Midfielder, which are generally characters with longer range attacks, and rear types, which are generally missile and magic users. You can mix and match however you want, but it’s best to have a mix of the characters. It’s also a good idea to raise several characters for each position simultaneously as you can switch them in and out in battle. That way, you’ll be good to go in boss fights, especially on the hard difficulty setting. Morrigan is great for this as she has a special ability that lets you switch out characters for free, but really, I think Morrigan is the best overall character in the game.
Initiative is determined by an overall sum of all your characters agility and AP rather than individual characters. In harder battles or difficulty settings, AGI (Agility) is more important than Hit Points, so having nothing but tanks might actually do you more harm than good. Once it is your turn each character has AP, or action points that they can use. Action Points that you don’t use on a turn can be carried over to the next round, up to twice your starting total, so sometimes it’s good to play defensive and hold your AP in so that you can let loose with a super powerful combo on your next turn.
As I said earlier, the battle system is similar to Valkyrie Profile where you can have your characters attack whenever you would like on your turn, setting up what are called Branch Combos. These combined moves end up giving you a more powerful end combo. You can do the same with your skills. Using certain skills in a specific order lets a character use an Extra Combo, which are basically boss killers.
An nice touch that has come over from the fighting game series Darkstalkers is the Guard Break. There is also something called an Overbreak which works in a similar manner and this applies to characters without breakable guards or guard values. Causing a Guard break lets you do more damage with a Pursuit attack, while an Overbreak will give the character causing it their full AP back. Nice!
As for skills, you have regular skills and EX skills. Skills are leveled up by using them, and EX skills are released for your character to use when skills level up. Note that EX skills generally require a combination of regular skills leveling up so just focusing on one skill for the whole game won’t get you anywhere.
I honestly can’t think of a game released for the PS3 whose engine really forces you to think about not only your actions this turn, but your actions for next turn and the turn after that in advance. Cross Edge really is the thinking gamer’s RPG, and much like Disgaea has become the SRPG series of choice for those hardcore about that genre, Cross Edge should hopefully achieve a similar fate. What can I say, I already want the sequel complete with Donovan Bane and Jon Talbain as playable characters.
Honestly, this is the most solid, intricate, and deep RPG engine I’ve played in this generation of gaming. I highly recommend the game just based on this.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Unparalleled
With so many different characters to choose from, different story points to be found, and endings to see, you can really play Cross Edge several different times and never get the same game. Even better, there are three difficulty settings and trust me when I say hard is just that! As such, Cross Edge is like a modern day Shining Force 2 where you can play the game several times in a row just to try out different characters and find different areas.
As I mentioned before though, if you don’t get the True Ending the first time through, don’t use a SaveGame+ as you will just be making things that much harder on yourself. This will no doubt disappoint a lot of gamers, and rightfully so, but thankfully it’s really the only black mark about the game I can say, and it never stopped gamers from starting from scratch before.
Replayability Rating: Good
With three difficulty levels and a ton of characters to try out, Cross Edge has really been made accessible to all gamers. It’s just a matter of seeing what works best for you and how hard you like your games. I will say that some pieces of the game are actually quite cruel to gamers. Some in-game events only can be found or triggered at such specific points in the game it is exceptionally easy to miss them. It’s also true that triggering the True Ending can be pretty complicated and the game is purposely obscure with hints on what to do and how to get certain characters to join your side. The game’s not Simon’s Quest bad, but yeah, gamers who rush through the game or even munchkin through the story may find themselves frustrated in the long term as they whiz by or lock themselves out of the best ending.
Don’t give up though. All of the endings are fun and the game is well worth experiencing. Just because you can’t get the “best” ending in a game doesn’t mean it’s not worth playing through and getting a different one. Take something like Clock Tower for example. Getting each ending is half the fun, especially as you compare them against each other.
Although Cross Edge can certainly be pretty tough at times in terms of battling and getting the ending you want, just remember that’s what the multiple difficulty settings are for. If you’re not confident in your abilities or knowledge of the engine and skill system, try Easy and you’ll be fine.
Balance Rating: Above Average
With a highly original engine, Cross Edge really shines in terms of innovation and creativity. This is also the first mashp-up game for nearly all of these characters. Demitri and Morrigan have had the most exposure outside their respective franchises, but Marie, Etna, and others are characters with cult following, so just the chance to see them interact with each other is a pretty fun sight to behold.
Although other mash-ups like Chaos Wars have gone horribly wrong and others will never make it stateside, it’s good to know we’ve got one of the best here. The engine makes the game simply because it’s both reminiscent of other great games and yet wholly its own. The awesome characters are just icing on the cake.
Originality Rating: Good
I have to admit I got sucked into this game when I first purchased it. I mean, I may be an import gamer, but I rarely go out of my way to get the game on launch day. Cross Edge was that exception and it’s not hard to see why. Darkstalkers is my favourite fighting game series, Disgaea is my favourite SRPG series since Sammy Sega decided to stop making Tactical Shining Force games and that series’ name is now attached to craptacular miss-fires. In fact the only series included in this game that I haven’t enjoyed is Spectral Souls and Compile Heart’s even managed to make THAT interesting.
The fact that I am going through this game for the third time (first in English) should tell you how much I really enjoy every aspect of this game. I mean, I review a game a week (sometimes more) and for me to devote any of my free time to a game like this is rare. The only other games that has kept me this busy in 2009 have been Phantasy Star Portable (because it is awesome) and Sacred 2 (Because it is so damn long).
How much you yourself will devote to Cross Edge comes down to how much fun you have with the engine and how much you enjoy all the characters contained therein. If you have no emotional attachment to any of these or you prefer a more simplistic engine, then you might want to look elsewhere.
Addictiveness Rating: Enjoyable
9. Appeal Factor
To be honest, all of the series in Cross Edge, save perhaps Disagea, are far more popular in Japan than here. I know very few gamers that have played say, Spectral Souls or the Ar Tonelico. Hell, even on staff most of those that have played those games are due to review copies from Nippon Ichi sent to us. Cross Edge is going to live or die based on Disgaea and Darkstalkers fans. Sure a few Nippon Ichi faithful and the curious may try the game, but those will be only a small percentage of gamers, and those are small groups to begin with anyway. Hopefully it will be word of mouth that drives the sales of this game. Word of mouth over the quality of the engine and the fun of seeing all these characters meet each other. If you play games primarily for the engine, you should have a lot of fun with this. If you play games primarily for the most cutting edge graphics or deep emotional stories, Cross Edge is NOT your game. This is definitely for fans of the weird, the intricate, or of the characters.
Appeal Factor: Decent
I have to admit that this part of the review is based completely on the Japanese version of the game and the fact I have a Japanese PS3 account as well as my US and UK ones. That being said, holy crap is there an amazing amount of DLC for this game!!!! Honestly, I think it may have the most DLC for any game on the Japanese Playstation Network. Best of all? It’s nearly all free. I downloaded all the free stuff as soon as it came out and these range from getting items earlier in the game to several thousand Party Points. Now, the best stuff does cost money, I can’t deny that, but why not take the free items? Heck, there are even free bonus dungeons!
I know NIS America is bringing over a lot of the downloadable content stateside, but they have yet to say if they’re bringing ALL of it and what the price point will be. If Nippon Ichi only brings over half of the DLC Japan received, get ready to spend a lot of time downloading off the wall things and ultimate weapons.
The DLC gets top marks from me and honestly, no game that I have ever played has ever done DLC as well as the Japanese version of Cross Edge. Let’s cross our fingers and hope that all the DLC makes it stateside. If my review copy wasn’t a Beta, I’d be able to tell you if the Japanese DLC works with the NA version of the game, but alas, that’s not an option for me. Maybe if Nippon Ichi sent me a retail copy….
Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Balance: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Decent
FINAL SCORE: VERY GOOD GAME!
Short Attention Span Summary
It appears Cross Edge if going to join Pokemon Platinum as a game that makes my top ten list for the year two years in a row. Yay for importing, no? With an amusing story, enjoyable 2-D graphics, a fun soundtrack and a highly creative and innovative engine with both tactical and turn based elements, Cross Edge is a game worth experiencing even if the only characters you recognize are Etna and Morrigan. The Japanese version of the game boasts the most downloadable content out of any game I’ve ever played and with multiple endings and difficulty levels, I’ll be shocked if Cross Edge doesn’t get RPG of the year nominations (or the award itself) from us and other gaming websites. What are you waiting for dood? Go get this!